8 Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida | 2023 Update



We put together this list of the 8 best places to live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with several factors in mind to help you identify the most desirable beach cities in the area.

On the western shores of Florida and up the Panhandle, the coastline sits directly on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Here is where you can indulge in the legendary sandy beaches that make Florida famous.

Our analysis of the best places to live takes into account the latest data on overall liveability of each city, which includes cost of living, housing costs, crime, and desirability.

Of course, we also considered ease of access to high quality beaches since that is one of the top reasons to live on the Gulf Coast.

We made sure to cross-reference our evaluation with other rankings of the best cities and beaches from large publications like the U.S. News and World Report and Wallethub. Additionally, we made sure to include cities and towns that provide fun for all ages.

So, what are the best places to live on the Gulf Coast of Florida? Let’s find out!

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8. Venice, Florida

Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida Venice

Pros and Cons:
+ Strong community for retirees
+ Direct access to the beach
Above average cost of living

Location: Southwest Florida – Check on Google Maps

Venice, Florida is well-known as having an excellent retirement community along with being great for families. With a population of roughly 20,000, it is one of the smaller cities on our list that actually feels more like a close-knit town.

For folks who enjoy the outdoors, Venice, Florida offers numerous parks as well as Venice Beach, which was ranked the 8th best beach in all of Florida. Sarasota and its world-renowned beaches are also less than a one hour drive away.

Additionally, Venice, Florida features a charming historic downtown that is filled with wonderful locally-owned boutiques, restaurants, and cafes along its quaint, palm tree-lined streets.

People are taking notice of Venice, Florida, as it was named one of the top places to live on the coast in the U.S. by Coastal Living magazine.

7. Cape Coral, Florida

Pros and Cons:
+ Expanding job market
+ Excellent retiree community
Above average housing costs
Limited options for singles

Location: Southwest Florida – Check on Google Maps

Cape Coral is situated right across the bay from Fort Myers and ranks as the 12th best place to retire in America.

However, there is more to Cape Coral than just a nice retirement community. Wallethub ranked it as having the highest quality of life out of all the big cities in Florida and placed it in the top one-third of all cities in Florida for families.

Living in Cape Coral would offer you access to some of the best beaches of Florida, including Sanibel Island and its small town charm as well as the expansive Fort Myers Beach, making it one of the best places on the Florida Gulf Coast to live.

6. Dunedin, Florida

Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida Dunedin

Pros and Cons:
+ Good value and standard of living
+ Quick access to the beach
Limited work opportunities
Isolated from larger cities

Location: West Central Florida – Check on Google Maps

Dunedin is a small beach city on Florida’s western coast and about 45 minutes from Tampa. It is known for its quiet and relaxed lifestyle while still offering many opportunities for entertainment in town and outdoors.

Residents enjoy the quaint and historic downtown district, which offers many shops, dining options, and bars. Meanwhile, there is also an abundance of good beaches to choose from. Clearwater Beach, which was named the 3rd best beach in Florida by U.S. News & World Report, is only 20 minutes away while Honeymoon Island State Park is just 15 minutes away across the Dunedin Causeway.

Affordability is one of Dunedin’s strong points – its home prices are 34% lower than the U.S. average.

5. Naples, Florida

Pros and Cons:
+ Excellent school system
+ Low crime
+ Top quality beaches and golf courses

Location: Southwestern Florida – Check on Google Maps

The wealthy city of Naples, Florida is the 5th best place to live on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is ideal for families and was ranked #1 by Wallethub as the best city for families based on education, safety, and health standards.

Naples, Florida is also well known for its upscale living with its world-class beaches and golf courses. In fact, the beaches of Naples that sit right on the Gulf Coast were ranked as the 4th best in Florida.

4. Fort Myers, Florida

Pros and Cons:
+ Great value
+ Growing downtown scene
+ Access to top beaches
Tourists throughout the year

Location: Southwestern Florida – Check on Google Maps

Fort Myers has been constantly ranked as one of the best emerging cities in Florida. It is easy to see why, since it combines affordability with a vibrant, revitalized downtown area and access to many beaches and islands.

The historic downtown of Fort Myers contains numerous shops, restaurants, and bars, with outdoor gardens and patios that create a cozy atmosphere, which is great for singles and families alike. Fort Myers is also a perfect spot for retirees, as it was named as the 2nd best city to retire in through the whole U.S.

Living in Fort Myers would give you an abundance of world-class beaches to enjoy. There is Sanibel Island, which was ranked as the 2nd best beach in Florida. Additionally, there is Fort Myers Beach and its 7 miles of beachfront as well as Estero Island.

You can also reach Naples in less than 1 hour. If you are having trouble choosing between Fort Myers and Naples, then read this comparison guide that we recently published.

Check out our extensive review of the pros and cons of living in Fort Myers for more details.

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3. Pensacola, Florida

Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida Pensacola

Pros and Cons:
+ Excellent school system
+ Strong job opportunities
Affordable cost of living
Some pockets of crime

Location: Western Florida Panhandle – Check on Google Maps

Pensacola ranks #3 on our list and is the only representative from the Florida Panhandle’s Gulf Coast. It offers residents a strong school system with some very affordable living – its housing costs are almost 30% lower than the U.S. average.

Meanwhile, Pensacola is near many top beaches. Pensacola Beach is just a 20 minute drive across the bay from downtown. There are also the white sandy beaches of Destin, which was named as the #1 beach in Florida, just an hour away. If that is not enough, there is also Navarre Beach, which has the largest fishing pier on the Gulf Coast.

2. Tampa – St. Petersburg, Florida

Pros and Cons:
+ Cost of living
+ Growing job market
+ Above average education system
Tourists and Traffic

Location: Western Central Florida – Check on Google Maps

The Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area has been steadily climbing lists of top cities in numerous publications. In fact, Tampa was ranked as the 9th fastest growing city in the U.S. in 2020.

This dramatic growth has brought in many jobs to the area and Tampa-St. Petersburg has become one of the best places to live in the state for singles, families, and seniors alike.

It also offers a blend of affordable housing options, which choices in the urban downtown core as well as the suburbs.

Meanwhile, Tampa and St. Petersburg are in close proximity to many high quality beaches and parks. For example, Clearwater Beach is only 30 minutes away, while Anna Maria Island is just an hour away.
Don’t forget about St Pete Beach, which is just 10 minutes from downtown St. Petersburg and ranked as the 5th best beach in all of Florida.

1. Sarasota, Florida

Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida Sarasota

Pros and Cons:
+ Cozy feel with large city amenities
+ Buzzing arts and culture scene
+ Beautiful beaches
Relatively high cost of living
Tourists and traffic

Location: Western Central Florida – Check on Google Maps

Sarasota comes in at #1 of all the best places to live on the Gulf Coast of Florida, as its population of 50,000 enjoys a lively arts and culture scene that blends people of all ages together.

Sarasota is also the gateway to many of the most stunning beaches in all of Florida, including Siesta Key Beach, which routinely is named as the top beach in the U.S., Lido Key Beach, and Longboat Key Beach, all just 15-20 minutes away from downtown Sarasota.

Additionally, Tampa and St. Petersburg (and all of their pristine coastline that is mentioned above) is just a 1 hour drive away from Sarasota.

Summary – Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast of Florida

Overall, these are the top 8 cities to choose in Florida that get you direct access to the coastline while still offering a fun and lively place to live.

These cities are the best blend of easy, beachtown living, with large city amenities, all while providing a safe and strong education system for families.

Before you go, check out our list of the 16 best cities in Florida if you would like to explore the whole state in more detail and don’t necessarily have to be on the coast.